Lindelof’s pedigree bodes well for United future

June 16, 2017 Tags: , , Reads 4 comments
featured image

This guy’s done nothing, absolutely nothing”, raged Ray Wilkins, lambasting Manchester United’s decision to sign a Swedish international who, at 22 years old, has more honours to his name than “Butch” amassed in his entire career. According to Wilkins, José Mourinho would have been better served by courting the services of Michael Keane, a player sold by United in 2015. The 24-year-old enjoyed an impressive campaign for Burnley last season but – much to Wilkins’ chagrin – United plumped instead to acquire the highly-rated Lindelöf for a fee of more than £30 million.

Wilkins’ scepticism of foreign imports is not a new phenomenon among some pundits, although Ray Parlour and the two Sky presenters seemed to squirm uncomfortably as he bemoaned United’s apparent ignorance of home-grown talent. In truth, Lindelöf has an impressive pedigree both for club and country, arriving from SL Benfica – a club synonymous with success in Portugal. He comes to Old Trafford much in the same way as Eric Bailly – much admired on the continent, but with little to no profile in England. Reds’ fans will hope that Mourinho has managed to unearth another defensive gem, much like he did with the Ivorian.

"Lindelöf has an impressive pedigree both for club and country. He comes to Old Trafford much admired on the continent, but with little to no profile in England."


Born on 17 July 1994, Lindelöf joined his local side Vasteras SK in 2010, helping the team gain promotion in his first season. Attracting attention from continental Europe, Lindelöf made the switch to Benfica just over a year later where he initially plied his trade with the club’s U-19 squad, winning the league title in 2013. Lindelöf’s performances earned him a first team début later that same year, completing 90 minutes in a Portuguese Cup victory over CD Cinfaes. Despite a taste of top-flight football, the young Swede was made to wait before becoming a regular fixture in the senior side.

Victor Jörgen Nilsson Lindelöf

He made just under 100 appearances for both the Benfica youth and ‘B’ teams before becoming a fully fledged member of Jorgé Jesus’ side – making his league debut in a late season defeat to FC Porto in May 2014. Lindelöf took a place in the first-team squad at the beginning of the 2015/16 season, making 23 appearances and scoring once, however his campaign was hindered by injury problems that prevented him staking a regular claim.

It was at the beginning of last season that the imposing centre-back began to make his mark. Registering a joint second highest number of appearances with 47, Lindelöf was ever-present in an historic season for Aguias as the team swept to a record 36th league title, while also capturing the Portuguese Cup and Super Cup. He was named in the 2016 UEFA Champions League Breakthrough XI.

The young defender has also established himself at international level, representing Sweden from U-17 level through to being awarded a senior bow in 2016. In 2015, Lindelöf helped his U-21 teammates to a first-ever European Championship trophy, scoring the winning penalty as the Swedes overcame Portugal via a shoot-out in the final. The defender was also honoured with a place in UEFA’s team of the tournament.


Standing at 6’2″ and possessing an imposing frame, Lindelöf certainly looks every inch the traditional centre-back – not least when his now short dark hair was shaven. But on the pitch, he is very much the idealists image of a modern defender. Aggressive, quick across the ground and with a knack for reading the game at vital moments, Lindelöf combines these fundamental defensive traits with composure, tidy feet and an eye for a pass. His technical prowess and all-round mobility allows him to deputise at right-back, as he did for Sweden’s U-21 Euro winning side.

Victor Jörgen Nilsson Lindelöf

On a purely statistical level, Lindelöf falls short of United’s existing centre-back options on number of tackles made and clearances per game, but this must be balanced against the fact that Benfica is a much more dominant outfit in Portugal than United is in England. The Portuguese champions conceded only 18 goals in 34 league games, losing just twice.

Lindelöf’s most crucial quality for United could be his ability on the ball. In Eric Bailly, Mourinho has his defensive destroyer, but he does not have a foil in the shape of someone more adept with the ball at his feet. Lindelöf averaged more than 60 passes per game at 90 per cent accuracy last season, and has shown the ability to cut through the lines into attacking areas. Some defenders enjoy a high pass completion by virtue of playing the ball side to side or short into midfield. Lindelöf has the ability and confidence to be a real asset to United on the ball in a creative sense, which is more than can be said of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.

"Lindelöf has the ability and confidence to be a real asset to United on the ball in a creative sense, which is more than can be said of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones"

The real test for the young centre-back will be to step up to the kind of level expected at United. More experienced players have been unable to fill the jersey, and although the team is perhaps not the behemoth it once was, the pressure to succeed has not dissipated. Lindelöf’s time at Portugal’s most successful club should prepare him well for making the jump.

Making a strong first impression will also be key to his success. The nation’s media revel in piling pressure on foreign players who do not immediately excel in the much-hyped Premier League, and fans will hope that Lindelöf avoids falling into this trap. That is not to say that Ray Wilkins’ ramblings about Keane and his solitary year of Premier League experience holds any weight; pundits love to overstate the importance of “knowing the league”. There are plenty of players who know the league inside-out but it does not necessarily make them better footballers.

Victor Jörgen Nilsson Lindelöf

After all, Eric Bailly stepped into the United side from Villarreal last season and adapted with little fuss, and Lindelöf appears to possess a temperament and assuredness that will aid in his transition. Nicknamed “Iceman” by Benfica fans due to his immense composure, his goal must be to provide the kind of class at the back that has been missing since Rio Ferdinand’s departure. At 22, Lindelöf has time to grow into the role further and if he clicks with Bailly, the heart of United’s defence could be in good hands for years to come.


JonB - June 19, 2017 Reply

Not sure that the headline rings true. Can’t see much of a ‘pedigree’ in a Swedish kid playing Portugese ‘youth’ football and then a couple of seasons in the first team at Benfica. Michael Keane has an equally impressive and I would argue far better C.V. for United and England age groups. To decide to leave United and essentially build a career at Burnley showed that the guy had ambition and balls. To do that so successfully that basically within a year Keane was in the England senior team says much about the man. The fact that van Gaal had Michael Keane behind Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair (remember those two budding superstars?) in the United pecking order says something about a time and philosophy that many of us would like to move on from.

I wish Lindelof well and hope he is successful at United but at this point in time I would prefer Michael Keane. Perhaps we could end up with both.

Don’t mind you slagging off Ray Wilkins, the pompous, pretentious, patronising pundit but not Ray Wilkins the player. The guy was class. Debut for Chelsea at seventeen, captain at eighteen, eighty four caps for England and a decent few seasons at United. Young Lindelof has a bit of a way to go yet.

KK - June 29, 2017 Reply

equally impressive or better Cv? Michael Keane @ 24 Honours: Football League Championship: 2015–16, Denzil, Haroun Reserve Player of the Year: 2011–12 ,PFA Championship Team of the Year: 2015–16, A Grand total of 2 National Team caps. Mean while Lindelof @ 22: Titles: Division 1 Norra: 2010, Primeira Liga: 2013–14, 2015–16, 2016–17, Taça de Portugal: 2013–14, 2016–17, Taça da Liga: 2015–16
Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira: 2016; UEFA European Under-21 Championship: 2015;Individual; UEFA European Under-21 Championship Team of the Tournament: 2015; Fotbollsgalan Best Defender: 2016; UEFA Champions League Breakthrough XI: 2016, 12 National team Caps. Not trying to be argue just for the sake of it but Lindelof to 30 mil just to see us net 6mil for Keane going to Everton ..Good Business.

Bonehead - June 20, 2017 Reply

This looks potentially a very good buy. He has the physical presence and also the calmness on the ball. What else would you want from a centre back? Give him some time (he’s only 22) and he could be our CB for the next 10 years.

Wayo - June 27, 2017 Reply

Linderlof sweden is a defender with everything….aerial duel,possession,accurate passing,calmness on the ball and easily disposes strikers….coupled with his discipline on the pitch(with few bookings); and of the pitch…..also injury free means he could play about 50games in a season. At just 22yrs….His adaptation to the new direct,strong and pacy league is his only weakness now….and if he is able to overcome this challenge,the a new swedish legend is born

Add your comment